Monday, February 8, 2010

Spread by Hand

A number of people have written about spreadable content--content that's easily and enthusiastically shared on the web--and how museums might participate in that effort.  And I came across something the other day that suggested ways in which museums--particularly local history museums--might use low-tech ways to make their content spreadable around their community.

Nina Goffi is a talented illustration major at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.  On her blog, she posted an entry about The Lumberjack Handbook, saying a limited run of copies would be available in coffee shops around the Philadelphia area.   The little zine is a bit of a surprise gift--and it would be great to come across it over a cup of coffee, and I loved mine when it came in the mail upon request.

Why did she choose this method to share her artwork?  
As for my zines, I thought my target audience or people who would actually pick up my zine, would be coffee shop dwellers. I usually always take a gander at fliers and postcards near coffee counters before I go out the door, and thought I might catch someone similar to my habits to do the same. There are also a lot of bearded men at coffee shops who I thought would get a kick out it.
At first, not much response, but then Nina reported several emails asking for copies--people who had either read it on her blog, or come across them in person.  The project reminded me of a long-ago workshop my daughter Anna did at Word Thursdays/Bright Hill  Press, a literary organization here in our tiny Catskills village.   The students studied poems by particular writers and then wrote their own poems in a similar style.   But then--and this is the fun part--the poems were laminated and tied on trees and lightposts around town.

Why can't local museums do this?  I would love to pick up a simple book with one or two letters home from the Civil War, or diary entries, or photos of winter.   I would stop and ponder a photo tied to a light post, and then, perhaps, go home and explore further on the web.  

I think Nina identified a few important principles in reaching her target audience of bearded, flannel-wearing guys (perhaps harder in Center City, Philadelphia).
  • It wasn't an expensive effort.  She did a limited run, in black and white. 
  • She thought about what she liked to do in a coffee place--and expanded that out to a larger audience.
  • She was observant about where those audiences were and what they were doing.
  • She spread her content both by hand and on the web.
Think about it.  Could you reach many more people this way than doing yet another exhibit that, as one focus group participant recently said, "the same 100 people come to over and over again"?

More to come soon from Nina on this blog--and thanks Nina, for sharing.


Anne W. Ackerson said...

Brilliant! Thanks for sharing this. I would love to see trees full of intriguing snippets of local history all over Troy!

Once again you've shown us the positive potential of a simple action.

Nina Simon said...

Great post. There's a bar in Seattle called the Hideout that offers clipboards for patrons (many of whom are artists) to doodle and write whatever they like. The bar then publishes an occasional black and white zine of the best scrawls of the season, available from the Hideout only. I think it's a brilliant way to DO something with visitor-generated content, make a product that is uniquely associated with the place.

Linda Norris said...

Thanks Anne and Nina for commenting...I've had someone ask me what local history museums should do with their visitor-generated content, archive that's next to think about!

Mari Shopsis said...

Beware Anne - they may start sprouting!

Word verification: "yesses"